Friday, October 31, 2008

Damn Cats!

I’m sorry I haven’t been around much lately, and this is going to be the case for a while longer. On Monday and Tuesday, I wasn’t feeling very well. Then on Wednesday, my cat Alvin was ill, so I took him to see the vet. Unfortunately, while the vet took Alvin’s temperature, I held his head. I thought I had a firm grip on him, but he managed to get loose and sunk all his teeth into my arm.

As it was a very nasty bite, I went to the doctor for a tetanus shot. She also gave me antibiotics and painkillers, as she was particularly concerned that Alvin might have passed his infection onto me. She also told me to keep my forearm elevated for 2-3 days, so I’m not supposed to be typing, but I just wanted to let you know what was happening.

My right arm is red and swollen from the wrist to the elbow, and is extremely painful. It was so bad that I couldn’t get the childproof caps off the antibiotics and painkillers, and had to wait for Mick to get home from work before I could take any. :-) But the good news is, Alvin is recovering from his infection, so hopefully, normal service will be resumed with me very soon.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Leek, Bacon, and Potato Soup

Wouldn’t you know it? I no sooner get through gloating about how wonderful our weather is when a cold front moves in. Yesterday, we had thunderstorms and torrential rain all day. Our temperatures plummeted 30 degrees in just a couple of hours, and went even lower overnight. There could be no better time for some soup.

This is one of my favorite soups. Leek and potato soup has been around for yonks (years) in the UK, but the addition of bacon and some cheddar cheese gives it an extra dimension.

I don’t know if it’s the same where you live, but leeks don’t seem to be very popular in Oklahoma. Whenever I buy them, the cashiers at the store always have to ask me what they are. So if you’ve never tried them, give them a whirl, they add a wonderful flavor to all manner of soups and stews.

Leeks are a member of the onion family, and in fact, look much like very large spring (green) onions, but their taste is quite different to onions.

Just to digress a moment. Last winter, I made this soup for my husband to take to a pot luck at work. No one got to try it though. On his way to work, with the crock-pot on the floor of the car, someone pulled right out in front of him, and Mick had to jam on the anchors. Result – soup all over the bloody car. Oh, hum.

Anyway, without further ado, on with the recipe.

Leek, Bacon and Potato Soup

Just a word of advice about leeks before we begin. Leeks can have a bit of a gritty texture, but if you prepare them this way that won’t happen. Top and tail your leeks - just use the white and pale green flesh - then slice them down the middle length ways, but don't cut them right in half, then rinse them under running water for a minute or two and they'll be great.

Serves 4


6 slices thick bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots sliced
2 leeks chopped
4 large russet potatoes, chopped into bite size pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cups chicken broth
A dash of cayenne pepper (approx.1/8 teaspoon)
1 cup of sharp cheddar, shredded

Don't add salt to this recipe as the bacon tends to make the soup salty enough.
  • In a large saucepan, or Dutch oven, fry bacon in its own grease until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, drain on paper towels, and set aside. Discard bacon grease and wipe pan thoroughly with paper towels.
  • Add olive oil to pan, and over a medium heat sauté onion for 2 – 3 minutes, add carrots and leeks and sauté for a further minute, or until onion is soft but not brown.
  • Stir in chicken broth, potatoes and cayenne pepper, bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer covered for about 30 minutes.
  • Return bacon to pan, and reheat for about 5 minutes.
  • Reserve a little of the cheese to sprinkle on top of each bowl, and add the rest to the pan, stir until cheese has melted, do not allow to boil.

Served with crusty bread this soup is a meal in itself.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Cheesy Potatoes on the Grill

It was a beautiful weekend here in my little corner of northeast Oklahoma, lots of sunshine, clear blue skies, and temps a balmy 75°F. Just perfect for dragging out the BBQ for what will probably be the last time this year.

This is not terribly exciting, it's only a spud recipe, but they are pretty darned good. The cheesy potatoes, were cooked on the grill alongside some chicken on the ribs. We also have some rainbow chard growing in our garden at the moment, so I sautéed some in butter and garlic.

Cheesy Potatoes on the Grill (or in the oven if you prefer)


3 large russet potatoes, thinly sliced about 1/8 inch
1 small onion, thinly sliced
½ cup mozzarella, shredded
¼ cup sharp cheddar, shredded
Black pepper, to taste
2/3 cup milk, warmed
1 tablespoon butter, melted
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, shredded

  • Pre-heat grill to low, or oven to 425°F
  • Grease an 8 x 8-inch foil tray (or baking dish) with butter.
  • Arrange smaller potato pieces in layers in bottom of dish, top with a layer of onions, then a layer of cheese, and add pepper to taste. Layer larger sized potatoes on top. Pour in the warm milk, brush top with melted butter, and sprinkle over the Parmesan.
  • Bake on grill for about 50 minutes, then put the foil pan under a hot broiler for 2 –3 minutes to brown the surface.
  • Or bake in the oven for 45-50 minutes. These potatoes usually brown okay in the oven without recourse to the broiler, but if they don’t you know what to do.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Quiche Lorraine Plus

Who was it that said, real men don’t eat quiche? To tell the truth, I have no idea, but they obviously didn’t know my husband. He would eat minced tires as long as there was a crust involved.

Also, I’m sure I’ve told you before, but me and pastry don’t mix. I just can’t make it. And when I do, I can’t get it off the board and into the dish without it falling to bits. Well, we can’t all be perfect, and I know my limitations, so I just buy those ready made pastry sheets now.

This is a bit of a variation on the traditional Quiche Lorraine, (which incidentally, was called bacon and egg pie when I was a kid), as I’ve added bell peppers and mushrooms, some mustard, and some chives.

Quiche Lorraine Plus


6 slices of thick bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ red pepper, chopped
½ green pepper, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
4 ounces mushrooms, sliced
6 eggs
2/3 cup milk
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon ground mustard powder
1 tablespoon fresh chives, chopped
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
1 refrigerated Pillsbury dough piecrust, brought to room temperature

  • Fry bacon in a large skillet over a medium high heat until crispy. Remove bacon from pan and drain on paper towels. Discard bacon grease and wipe pan with paper towels.
  • In same skillet, heat olive oil over a medium heat, add peppers and onions to pan and sauté until onion is translucent. Remove veggies from pan and drain on paper towels.
  • Allow bacon and veggies to cool for a few minutes. Meanwhile, pre-heat oven to 375°F, unroll pastry from package, and roll slightly with a rolling pin. Place crust in pie dish, and trim any excess pastry from edges of the dish.
  • In a large bowl whisk eggs and milk together, stir in mustard, chives and black pepper.
  • Add a layer of bacon to pie crust, then a layer of onions and peppers, then a layer of sliced mushrooms. Top with cheese, pour over egg mixture, and bake for 35 – 45 minutes.
  • Allow quiche to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Chicken and Bacon Casserole with Dumplings

This recipe has been a favorite winter warmer in our house for several years. Earlier this week it was cool and rainy, which gave me the perfect opportunity to make this casserole. Good thing I did as the cool weather didn't last long, it’s now back to sunny and 83°F.

The original recipe came from a packet of Atora (English) suet, but it has been tweaked quite a bit over the years. Please don’t let the mention of suet put you off, this is nothing like the stuff you Americans feed the birds. That said, beef suet is contraband over here, but a good friend sent me a couple of packets after his last trip to England, so I got to use some of my stash for the dumplings.

Now if you’re feeling adventurous you can get Atora vegetable suet on-line, it’s a good substitute, and you can find it here:

Alternatively, you’ll find a recipe for suetless dumplings at David Hall’s blog, Book the Cook, which you’ll find here:

Or just use whatever dumpling recipe you would normally use, but if you’ve never tried suet dumplings you are missing a real treat. Suet can also be used as shortening and makes great tasting pastry.

Chicken and Bacon Casserole with Dumplings

Sorry about the photo, this is straight out of the oven so the picture doesn’t really do it justice. But trust me, this is a great tasting casserole.


6 slices thick bacon, chopped into 1-inch chunks
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, fairly thickly sliced.
1 onion, sliced
1 green pepper, cut into chunks
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups chicken broth/stock
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
2 bay leaves
12 button mushrooms
1 beefsteak tomato, cut into wedges


½ cup self-raising flour
¼ cup Atora suet
Cold water to mix, approximately 4-6 tablespoons

  • Pre-heat oven to 350°F
  • In a large saucepan (use a Dutch oven if you have one) fry bacon over a medium high heat until crispy. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels. Discard bacon grease and wipe pan with paper towels.
  • In the same pan, heat olive oil over a medium heat, add chicken and cook until no longer pink, about 3-4 minutes. Remove chicken from pan, and set aside.
  • Add onion and green pepper to pan and sauté for 3 minutes until onion is slightly softened. Add garlic and sauté for a further minute.
  • Sprinkle over flour, stirring continuously. Gradually add broth/stock, stirring continuously. Return bacon and chicken to the pan, add bay leaves and season with pepper. (I would not recommend adding salt as the bacon already gives this dish a salty flavor). Bring to the boil.
  • Transfer mixture to a 2 quart casserole/baking dish, top with mushrooms and tomato wedges. Cover dish and place in oven for 30 minutes.

To make the dumplings:

  • In a large bowl, mix together flour, suet, and salt, gradually add water until dough is of a soft, elastic consistency.
  • Divide dough into 8 equal pieces, and roll into ball with floured hands.
    Add dumplings to casserole, cover and return to oven for a further 20-25 minutes.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Rosemary and Garlic Chicken

My apologies, I’ve been a bit remiss with my blogging this week. I got an e-mail from the editor at Oklahoma Living Magazine on Monday asking me to send in a list of article ideas for next year’s editorial calendar, by Friday! And, truth be told, I didn’t have a single idea in my head. Anyway, after a lot of brainstorming, a lot of research, and a couple of sleepless nights, I did manage to put a list together, and got it in by the deadline. (Phew, wipes sweat from fevered brow).

To make matters worse, I’ve been plagued by allergies this week. By Thursday night, they were so bad I was convinced I was coming down with a cold. But enough of my moans and groans, on with the recipe.

This is yet another one from the BBC Good Food Magazine. There are some seriously good recipes in here; the only one I’ve blobbed (failed) with so far was the marmalade chicken. I over-cooked the sauce and it ended up like sticky toffee chicken. I will try it again though, as the bit of sauce that didn’t totally caramelize tasted pretty good, I will just have to take a little more care with it next time.

This recipe, however, was a success. It was so easy to make, and tasted bloody marvelous if I do say so myself. I did make a couple of minor changes to it, and hubby pronounced it a definite keeper.

Rosemary and Garlic Chicken

Note: The recipe recommends cooking the garlic with the skin on, as the slow cooking makes it soft and sweet. Then just pop each clove out of the skin and squish it in the sauce as you eat. Yum!


6 chicken thighs, bone in, with skin
½ cup flour, seasoned with coarse ground black pepper
1 head of garlic, peeled if you prefer.
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 stalks of rosemary, my rosemary plant has up and died on me so I used dried.
1 cup dry white wine
Black pepper, to taste

  • Trim away any excess skin and fat from the chicken, and toss in seasoned flour.
  • Separate the garlic into cloves, I didn’t peel it, but I did trim the ends off each clove.
  • Heat the oil in a large skillet over a medium high heat until searingly hot. Add the chicken skin side down, and fry without moving until skin is brown and crisp. (I reduced heat to medium after 2-3 minutes). When skin is browned and crisp, turn chicken over and brown other side.
  • Add garlic, rosemary, pour in wine, and season with coarse ground black pepper. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat to low, cover pan, and simmer for 40-45 minutes, until chicken is tender and sauce thickened.

I served this with basmati rice, and buttered spinach.